Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's Too Soon to Say Goodbye

My parish church (Christ Episcopal Church in Somerville, Massachusetts), closed this past Sunday. In many ways, it still doesn’t feel real. This is the second parsh that I’ve been a part of that has closed in the last three years, which makes it difficult on more levels. Foolishly, I thought the second time would be easier. I knew what to expect, I’d done this before. But like the death of a loved one, it doesn’t become any easier just because you’ve experienced it before. I came back from a trip to Poland four weeks ago and it was then I found out that our last service would be October 14. I panicked. It was too soon. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared. I wanted one last Halloween party for the residents of the Walnut Street Center – one last opportunity to wear a costume to church on Halloween morning. I wanted to preach in this community one last time. I wanted more time. But we don’t always get what we want.

I’d only been a part of this community a few years ago after my last church closed. I wasn’t a lifetime member like others in the congregation. I haven’t even been there every Sunday for the past few years because life’s adventures took me to many different places and family obligations meant I was often out of town for Sunday mornings. And yet even when I was spending a summer studying in Western Massachusetts, I found myself coming back to Somerville to this small faith community. This was home. I might have jokingly referred to it as an ‘Island of Misfit Toys’, but it is a place that always welcomed me with open arms. There were plenty of times I felt like the prodigal child, going off to search for a community that was more sustainable, larger, less quirky – but church shopping isn’t easy even at the best of times. No matter what, no matter how long I was gone, there would always be someone to welcome me back with open arms. I remember one Sunday, walking into the church and having one of the young adults run down the aisle to give me a big hug and tell me how much they’d missed me and how happy they were to see me. That’s home. The place you can always come back to, where you can leave your troubles at the door and just rest in the presence of those who love you. That’s what Christ Church was to me. Home.

Sometimes you find home in the most unusual places. I was fortunate enough to live walking distance to Christ Church but I don’t think I ever expected what I found there. I underestimated the community and the unconditional acceptance and radical welcome I found in that small community. It might not have been the great big stone church with beautiful rose windows that I saw in my head, but it in life I think you have to be willing to see God in unexpected places. I had hoped that Christ Church would be able to put me forth for ordination, but God apparently has other plans.

Christ Church Somerville has long been referred to as the Dandelion of Somerville. Children in their innocence pick dandelions to present them to people as beautiful flowers. What may be a weed to some can be a beautiful flower to others. Like a dandelion, Christ Church is sending us out into the world, wherever the wind will carry us. There are things I wish I could change. I wish I could have spent more time at Christ Church, gotten to know people better, etc., but it was what it was. I know that I am blessed to have been a part of Christ Church and to have found a spiritual home for these last few years. It’s always hard to say goodbye and it feels like this goodbye came much too soon, but perhaps it is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I loved Christ Church, I loved the welcome I found there, the opportunities to preach, to laugh, to learn. But all good things must come to an end. It is enough to cherish the time we had, to be grateful for the opportunities, and to be fortified as we go forth like dandelion seeds blown about helplessly on the wind. But even a small dandelion seed can sprout in the cracks between the concrete sidewalk. Thank you for the memories Christ Church, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

“There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.”
― Mahatma Gandhi